On Twitter: @JamesEppler
A great year at the movies climaxed with a better-than-average Oscars telecast Sunday night. Although it dragged in parts as the ceremony usually does, risks taken by producers paid off for the most part.
The choice of Seth MacFarlane to host turned out to be a good one in my view. Yes, he was self-indulgent and lacked the polish of some of the broadcast's previous hosts, but it's obvious the talented entertainer put a lot of thought into this gig and he threw everything he had at it.
Some of the jokes didn't land (an awkward reference to Harvey Weinstein) and a few were quite good (it's like church but with more people praying). My favorite gag involved the introduction of Christopher Plummer and the Von Trapp family singers - who, of course, weren't there.
And even if there were a couple too many song and dance numbers, the host did it with a certain amount of panache and self-deprecation.
I've seen some more seasoned (read: older) critics complain about MacFarlane's attitude and some of the jokes that went over the line or seemed juvenile ("We Saw Your Boobs!"), but that's exactly why the AMPAS hired him. They're after that younger audience for ratings, and they have been for years.
They tried to sway them with the Hathaway/Franco debacle a couple years ago. They tried with the inclusion of more Best Picture nominees, hoping popular choices like "The Dark Knight" would make the cut.
None of it has worked, and no host or rule change is likely to change that very much.
Because at the end of the night, you've got a three-and-a-half hour awards show. That's all the Oscars are, and there's no reason they should last so long. It's time for the Academy to start making some tough decisions.
Producers were smart this year in making the theme "music in the movies," which allowed for some nice performances from Barbra Streisand, Jennifer Hudson, and Shirley Bassey (who can still blow, as Randy Jackson would say). But what theme do they go with for next year allowing those kinds of moments or performances?
Here's what needs to happen: cut the show down drastically by getting rid of the technical awards (art direction, editing, sound editing, sound mixing, etc.). I know what you're thinking: "Heretic! These people are just as responsible for making movies as the big-name actors, directors and writers!"
I agree - but let's not pretend we care to include them in the broadcast. Get real. Do you stick around and watch all the end credits of every movie? Suuuuure you do.
More proof: the funny gag Sunday night of playing the "Jaws" theme when a winner went too long on a speech. It was never used against an actor, writer or director. Quentin Tarantino almost got played off, but no one's gonna shut him up. Even some of the presenters should have been played off (talking to you, Paul Rudd, and Melissa McCarthy).
The technical awards need to be rolled into a different ceremony, and we can get a quick highlights package out of it.
A big reason people watch the Oscars is because they love to watch the movies, or maybe see more of one they hadn't gotten to yet. So let's show people more of the movies.
The Oscars tried very hard to be the Grammys or the Tonys last night with more performances. So let's show longer clips of nominated movies and actors to satisfy some of the need for performances in the show. And by cutting out the technical categories, I'd wager you can get out of that show in two-and-a-half hours. Perhaps these categories could be honored through some clips packages interspersed with brief interviews with the nominees.
Anything is better than another dull intro read by a bored actor, who then gives a statuette to someone you've never heard of, only so they can rattle off a list of names.
Believe me, I don't like the idea of chopping these hard-working people out of the broadcast. But this is TV, and it needs to be entertaining.
The Oscars is a show above all else.